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Morphing is a special effect in motion pictures and animations that changes (or morphs) one image into another through a seamless transition. Most often it is used to depict one person turning into another through technological means or as part of a fantasy or surreal sequence. Traditionally such a depiction would be achieved through cross-fading techniques on film. Since the early 1990s, this has been replaced by computer software to create more realistic transitions.


Early examples of morphing

In the book The Hunger Games, two children tributes are called morphlings because they look so alike even though one was a boy and one a girl. Though the 1986 movie The Golden Child implemented very crude morphing effects from animal to human and back, the first movie to employ detailed morphing was Willow, in 1988. A similar process was used a year later in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to create Walter Donovan's gruesome demise. Both effects were created by Industrial Light and Magic using grid warping techniques developed by Tom Brigham and Doug Smythe (AMPAS).[1]

The cover for Queen's 1989 album The Miracle, featured the technique to morph the four band members' faces into one gestalt image. In 1991, morphing appeared notably in the Michael Jackson music video Black Or White and in the movies Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The first application for personal computers to offer morphing was Gryphon Software Morph on the Macintosh. Other early morphing systems included ImageMaster, MorphPlus and CineMorph, all of which premiered for the Commodore Amiga in 1992. Other programs became widely available within a year, and for a time the effect became common to the point of cliché. For high-end use, Elastic Reality (based on MorphPlus) saw its first feature film use in In The Line of Fire (1993) and was used frequently as a plot device in Quantum Leap (work performed by the Post Group). At VisionArt Ted Fay used Elastic Reality to morph Odo for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Elastic Reality was later purchased by Avid, having already become the de facto system of choice, used in many hundreds of films. The technology behind Elastic Reality earned two Academy Awards in 1996 for Scientific and Technical Achievement going to Garth Dickie and Perry Kivolowitz. The effect is technically called a "spatially-warped cross-dissolve". The first social network designed for user-generated morph examples to be posted online was Galleries by Morpheus (morphing software).

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